Paraíba Tourmaline: A Stunning and Sought After Gemstone
The breathtaking clarity and vibrancy of the Mediterranean sea to the multiple aquatic shades of the clearest blue ocean can only come close to capturing the exuberant and enticing colors that embody Paraiba tourmaline. Its range of hues reflect the blue and greens of international waters and is one of today’s most coveted gemstones. What’s even more enchanting about this prized stone is that it seems lit from within and glows with an electric energy whether it leans more toward the more scarce illuminating blue or the sea green end of the spectrum.
It is a stone that only started to become sought after in the 1990s and grew in popularity as more and more so as jewelry collectors and enthusiasts saw and learned of this hypnotic stone.
The history of Paraíba Tourmaline
Martin Katz discovered the beauty of them and began working with them early on. He tells the story of his first reaction until he saw one up close and personal, “It was the early 90s, when I first began hearing about them and I thought, “What is so special, why so expensive? They are just another tourmaline which come in so many colors. Then some years later at a gem trade fair a stone dealer showed me a seven carat cushion cut gem that was neon blue. I had never seen a gem with such scintillating color and fire. I tried to negotiate but fell so in love with it, I paid an astronomical price and that was 25 years ago.”
The stones were uncovered by a gem miner in 1989 by Heitor Dimas Barbosa, and then named after the small Brazilian town of Paraiba where they were found, adding to the magic of this prized gem. It has been reported that for every 10,0000 diamonds mined, there is only a single Paraiba. The magnificent color is created by the presence of copper and manganese that imbues the Brazilian crystals with an effervescent light that creates the most powerful of the neon blues.
The town in Brazil was originally thought to be the only source of the gem but then at the beginning of the new millennium, similar Paraibas were discovered in Mozambique and Nigeria. Although, occasionally there will be the crystalline turquoise hue like those originally found in the Brazilian mines, the Mozambique and Nigerian colors tend to lean to a more greenish blue, each gem still vibrant and intoxicating.
Why are Paraíba Tourmaline pieces so expensive?
“All of the stones are scarce in large sizes (it is extremely rare to find exceptional quality stones over two-carats) in the market today,” Martin explains, “And those stones demand very high prices, even higher than diamonds”.
“Speaking of which, after purchasing the first seven-carat cushion cut, I designed a ring around it and sold it relatively quickly. Around four years later I ran into the woman to whom I sold the ring who said she loved it but it didn’t fit her lifestyle.” He continues, “I bought back the ring at double the price she paid and held onto it for a couple of years, knowing by this time it would continue to appreciate in price and value. I wound up selling the ring to a collector for four times its original cost and it’s worth double that amount today.”
Martin then began snapping up Paraibas whenever he could find them, choosing cabochon cuts which lend themselves to a variety of his one-of-a-kind designs. “I began buying large, extraordinary cabochons as it was near impossible to get the faceted stones. The prices for what I was paying 10-20 years ago are tenfold today”.
Martin’s insight to collect high quality cabochons is a feat considering that over the past several years, these gems have gone way beyond the concept of supply and demand. Paraibas were introduced to the gemstone world at the annual Tuscan gem show in 1990. Reports were that top-quality Paraiba tourmaline specimens sold for as much as $3,000 per carat and at that time, this price was considered high for a tourmaline; however, that is surprisingly inexpensive today as they reach as high as $200,000 per/carat and are very commonly in the $30,000-$120,000 per carat for the premium stones.
One-of-a-kind Paraíba Tourmaline at Martin Katz
But let’s talk about the designs. Martin’s wide bracelets mix oval cabochons with round diamonds and his necklaces combine fancy cut diamonds with Paraiba cabochons. The feeling of the designs evoke the serene clear waters when all is calm and tranquil in the fluid and sensuous feeling of the bracelets against the skin. Other one-of-a-kind pieces in the collection create a rich mosaic pattern of shapes in artistic arrangements.
Martin either draws out each design or starts playing with the different sizes and shapes of cabochons
and diamonds, laying them out until they form the alluring motifs that fit together like a puzzle. He then hands them off to his production team to start the setting process. Often the statement necklaces are punctuated by a large drop center Paraiba center stone. The rings feature different shaped breathtakingly beautiful center stones surrounded by complimentary colors that play off of the center stone.